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Nuclear fusion reactor decommissioning begins after 40 years

The decommissioning of a "world-leading" nuclear fusion reactor has begun after 40 years of operation.

The Joint European Torus (JET) facility in Culham, Oxfordshire, ended experiments in December.

In its last test, the reactor produced a record amount of energy.

It is expected to take about 12 years to repurpose the reactor, with the aim to reuse as much of the machine as possible.

Nuclear fusion works by heating and forcing tiny particles together to make a heavier one which releases useful energy.

Andrew Bowie, Minister for Nuclear and Renewables, said the work at Culham had been "transformational", adding the UK had been "world-leading in the research into fusion".

"Just because JET is coming to the end of its life today doesn't mean that the work here is going to stop. This is an internationally recognised fusion hub of excellence," he added.

The facility was constructed in the late 1970s and was only meant to be operational for a decade or so but repeated successes saw its life extended.

Although based in the UK, it was funded predominantly by the EU nuclear research programme Euratom and operated by the UK Atomic Energy Agency.

Ian Chapman, chief executive of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said: "What we've been doing at JET for the last 40 years is trying to perfect our understanding of how we generate fusion energy here on Earth."

He said JET had been the "biggest and the best facility for understanding the fusion process and learning a huge amount about the science".

Mr Chapman said: "The legacy, in my view, the legacy is the people, incredibly brilliant minds, the ingenuity of the people I work with, it's such a joy to work with them."

The government is hoping to build the world's first fusion power plant in Nottinghamshire with operations beginning in the 2040s.

The Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) project will be delivered by a new nuclear body, the UK Industrial Fusion Solutions.

Full story: Nuclear fusion reactor decommissioning begins after 40 years - BBC News (